In the past, immigration judges could place an immigration case on administrative closure depending on the facts of the case, which effectively gave the person facing removal proceedings a reprieve from the risk of deportation. The person who received the reprieve through administrative closure could stay in the country for as long as the case was in administrative closure, and would not be deported or otherwise detained during that time. While immigration judges can still order cases administratively closed, it is unlikely that they will do so now that the process is under review.
Other than allowing the person to stay in the country longer, administrative closure, as practiced in the past, did not confer any legal status to a person who was illegally in the country. However, if a person had prior work authorization or other benefits, these benefits would be continued as the person was allowed to stay longer than he or she may have if the case had gone forward and been decided on its merits. A judge could grant administrative closure in a case even when the government or the immigrant facing deportation opposed the move.
Administrative closure was used as part of the immigration priorities approach taken by the former administration, and if a person was not an immigration priority, there was more of a chance that the person’s case would be administratively closed. Generally, a person whose case had been administratively closed could expect the case to remain closed unless he or she engaged in any conduct that flagged him or her as a threat or dangerous. In that case, the case could be reopened and the person could be deported.
The Department of Justice has announced that it will review the practice of administrative closure, and its effect on the slow movement of immigration cases currently before judges. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is currently reviewing a case in which an undocumented immigrant’s case was administratively closed. The Attorney General will review the case to decide whether or not immigration judges have the authority to administratively close immigration cases, and provide guidance about how the process will be handled going forward.
Depending on the decision from the Attorney General, hundreds of thousands of cases that are currently on administrative closure may be reopened for adjudication. This could mean a great number of deportations will be carried out after the cases are decided. The end of administrative closure will also mean an addition to the backlog of immigration cases, which is already estimated at 650,000 cases.
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If your case was administratively closed, the end of the practice of administrative closures could mean that your case is will be reopened and you will once again face removal proceedings. This may not happen for some time, but you should be prepared for the possibility of having to present your case to avoid deportation. For more information on how an experienced immigration attorney can assist you, contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.